“I had a $100 wine once. It wasn’t that good at all. I wish he hadn’t wasted all that money.”
An acquaintance told me that recently. As it turns out, that’s what every American believes -- although the numbers change for each person, according to a wine marketing guru I had the pleasure of dining with last week.
Research has shown that American wine drinkers all have a price point where they feel comfortable, whether it’s $5 a bottle, $25 or $125. And at every price point, Americans think cheaper wines are crap, while more expensive wines are a waste of money.
It doesn’t matter where the price point is. People who buy $5 bottles of wine think $3 wine is crap, while people who buy $50 bottles of wine think $100 bottles of wine are a waste of money.
Do you see yourself here? I do, even though my price-comfort range is wider than most people’s because I taste so much wine. There are only a few wines under about $9 that I don’t consider plonk (Vinho Verde is the major exception). I’m not sure what my upper limit is, because I get to taste expensive wines all the time, and some of them are great. Yet I was on the Sine Qua Non mailing list for a while, but dropped off because I realized that savvy purchasing would get me wines I liked as well for much less money.
This price-classification turns the traditional 4 P’s of marketing -- price, product, promotion and placement -- on its head.
With most products, the product itself is the most important thing. If you buy Crest toothpaste, you’ll stick with it even if Pepsodent is 25 cents cheaper; maybe even if it’s a dollar cheaper.
But few wine consumers are brand-loyal. If someone’s favorite Argentine Malbec is $10.99 and there’s one from the same region for $9.99 next to it, he’ll try the cheaper one. But if there’s also one for $6.99, he’s likely to sneer at it as plonk.
The exceptions to the absence of brand loyalty tend to be drinkers of the cheapest wines. Beringer White Zinfandel fans feel about Sutter Home White Zin the way Ford buyers feel about Chevys. And Almaden and Carlo Rossi drinkers are also very loyal: they’ve find their drink, and they’re sticking with it.
We wine lovers don’t often think of Carlo Rossi drinkers as part of our gang, but they are: only 61% of American adults drink any wine at all, ever.
Moreover, 80% of American wine consumption comes from just 17% of the population. As wine sales are continuing unabated throughout the Great Recession, that means some of us are doing a whole lot of consuming to keep the wine industry afloat.
Moreover, because many of us are not brand-loyal, we’re spreading our support around. Aren’t we generous? Just don’t try selling us any of that half-price plonk or those overpriced ripoffs. We know the best wines are all priced just right.